Kevin McCarthy finally becomes U.S. House Speaker after tumultuous standoff with own party

Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected U.S. House Speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions boiling over after a chaotic week that tested the new Republican majority's ability to govern.

It took 15 ballots, various concessions for Republican leader to clinch enough votes

Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected U.S. House Speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions boiling over after a chaotic week that tested the new Republican majority's ability to govern.

After four days of grueling ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber's Freedom Caucus, leaving him just a few shy of seizing the gavel for the new Congress.

As the House resumed for the late night session, McCarthy had been on the cusp of victory in the 14th round but he fell one vote short.

He strode to the back of the chamber to confront Matt Gaetz, sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts. Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently just averted.

At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge toward Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.

"Stay civil!" someone shouted.

Republicans quickly moved to adjourn, but then McCarthy rushed forward to switch his vote to remain in session as colleagues chanted "One more time!"

The few Republican holdouts began voting present as well, dropping the tally he needed to finally seize the gavel in what was becoming a dramatic finish on the fourth long day of a grueling standoff, that has shown the strengths and fragility of American democracy.

McCarthy had declared to reporters earlier in the day that he believed "we'll have the votes to finish this once and for all."

The day's stunning turnaround came after McCarthy agreed to many demands from detractors — including the reinstatement of a longstanding House rule that would allow any single member to call a vote to oust him from office.

Even though McCarthy was able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weakened Speaker, having given away some powers and constantly under threat of being booted by his detractors.

But he could also be emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history. Not since the Civil War era has a Speaker's vote dragged through so many rounds of voting.

Anniversary of Jan. 6 attack

The showdown that has stymied the new Congress came against the backdrop of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which shook the country when a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

At a Capitol event on Friday, some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, observed a moment of silence and praised officers who helped protect Congress that day.

And at the White House, Biden handed out medals to officers and others who fought the attackers.

"America is a land of laws, not chaos," he said.

Some holdouts give in

At the afternoon speaker's vote, a number of Republicans tiring of the spectacle temporarily walked out when one of McCarthy's most ardent challengers railed against the GOP leader.

Contours of a deal with conservative holdouts who have been blocking McCarthy's rise emerged after three dismal days of failed votes.

"We're going to make progress," an upbeat McCarthy told reporters as he arrived at the Capitol. "We're going to shock you."

One significant former holdout, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who had been a leader of Trump's efforts to challenge the 2020 election, tweeted after his switched his vote for McCarthy: "We're at a turning point."

Another holdout, Byron Donalds of Florida, who was repeatedly nominated as an alternative candidate for Speaker, switched on Friday too, voting for McCarthy.

Trump may have played a role in swaying the holdouts. Donalds said he had spoken to the former president who had been urging Republicans to wrap up their public dispute the day before.

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As Rep. Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy on Friday, he also thanked the U.S. Capitol Police, who were given a standing ovation for protecting lawmakers and the legislative seat of democracy on Jan. 6.

But in nominating Jeffries, Democrat Jim Clyburn recalled the horror of that day.

"The eyes of the country are on us today," he told colleagues.

Concessions from McCarthy

Without a speaker, the chamber is unable swear in members and begin its 2023-24 session.

Electing a speaker is typically an easy task for a party that has just won majority control. But not this time: about 200 Republicans have been stymied by 20 far-right colleagues who've said McCarthy's not conservative enough.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House, much the way that some past Republican Speakers, including John Boehner, had trouble leading a rebellious right flank.

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The result: government shutdowns, standoffs and Boehner's early retirement when conservatives threatened to oust him.

The agreement McCarthy presented to the holdouts centres around rules changes they have been seeking for months that would shrink the power of the Speaker's office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence in drafting and passing legislation.

At the core of the emerging deal is the reinstatement of a House rule that would allow a single lawmaker to make a motion to "vacate the chair," essentially calling a vote to oust the Speaker.

I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. And I will never give up for you, the American people. <a href=""></a>


McCarthy had resisted allowing a return to the longstanding rule that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi had done away with, because it had been held over the head of past Republican Speaker, John Boehner. But it appears McCarthy had no other choice.

Other wins for the holdouts include provisions in the proposed deal to expand the number of seats available on the House Rules Committee, to mandate 72 hours for bills to be posted before votes and to promise to try for a constitutional amendment that would impose federal term limits for members of the House and Senate.

What started as a political novelty — the first time since 1923 a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote — has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Before Friday's ballots, Jeffries had won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority. McCarthy ran second, gaining no ground.

Pressure has grown with each passing day for McCarthy to somehow find the votes he needs or step aside. Congress cannot fully function; the incoming Republican chairmen of the House's Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees have all said national security was at risk, and staff risk not getting paychecks.

The longest fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

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